Monday, May 20, 2013
By Paul Betit firstname.lastname@example.org
Austin Theriault, an 18-year-old from Fort Kent, is pulling out all the stops to become the first Maine driver in six years to win the TD Bank 250.
BIG WEEKEND AT OPS
TODAY: OPS championship series (no late models) and PASS 150
SUNDAY: TD Bank 250 – qualifying heats start at 2 p.m., race starts at 6:30 (approximately)
Theriault will roll out a new car for Sunday's race at Oxford Plains Speedway, shelving the Late Model that enabled him to rank fourth in the American-Canadian Tour standings.
"I would have liked to have had (the car) earlier, but I'm not concerned about whether or not it's going to be fast enough," he said. "We built it pretty similar to our other car, and that car hasn't let us down."
Theriault, who finished third behind Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch in last year's 250, was the only driver to post a top-10 finish in ACT's first five races this season.
Last Saturday night, in his first time behind the wheel of his new car, Theriault finished third among 24 cars in the Oxford Networks weekly 40-lap Late Model feature at Oxford Plains.
"I've driven it once so far and it feels a little different," he said. "It feels more racy, and it doesn't fall off as much on the longer runs, which is going to be important this weekend."
Theriault, who graduated from high school last month, also has traveled throughout the East as a development driver for Brad Keselowski Racing.
"What the traveling has done has brought me to a whole bunch of different tracks and experiences, whether it's the type of car I drive or how long the race is or how hot it is," he said.
On July 4, Theriault finished fourth in the World Crown 300 at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga.
"It was really, really hot, which is something I'm not used to, coming from up here," he said. "It took a lot out of me, but it was something I had to overcome and I think it made me even better."
The forecast for Sunday's race is hot and humid weather.
No Maine driver has won the 250 since 2006. Bath's Jeremie Whorff, who no longer races in Maine, picked up $36,600.
"I don't know how many cars will come but there will be 70 or 80 of some of the best Late Model teams from Canada and New England, and that makes it big for us," Theriault said. "It's a really tough race to get into. You've got to be lucky and hopefully have a good draw in qualifying. If everything works out and you're there at the end of the race, it can mean a whole lot for the team."
PART OF the mystique of the TD Bank 250 is no one really knows all of the drivers who will try to qualify until the day of the race.
"Six, seven or eight guys will show up Sunday who we didn't know were going to come," said the track owner, Bill Ryan.
Race teams aren't required to enter the 250 until the day of the event.
"A couple of years ago, a big hauler with New York plates pulled in and it was a guy who we never heard of before from upstate New York," Ryan said. "It wasn't an ACT car, but he had a car that met the specs and he ran."
Entries for Sunday's race primarily will be made up of drivers from the track's Late Model division, which has included 43 cars this season, as well as race teams from the ACT tours in both New England and Canada, and from Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, Vt.
The Vermont track runs a Late Model division that has the same specifications as Oxford Plains.
PASS NORTH'S Super Late Models will make their first stop of the season tonight at Oxford Plains.
Five of the regional tour's top 10 drivers are from Maine, including the points leader, Travis Benjamin of Morrill; Cassius Clark of Farmington; six-time PASS North champion Johnny Clark of Hallowell; Joey Doiron of Berwick; and Ben Rowe of Turner.
PASS North's Super Late Models, Modifieds and Sportsmen are scheduled to return to the speedway Sept. 29-30.
WEEKLY RACES in the Pro Series, Sports Series, Wildcats and Roadrunners will run tonight at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, with the qualifying heats starting at 6:30 p.m.
Racing at Unity will resume July 28 with PASS Champions Night.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: